Book details the science of childhood happiness

May 19, 2010 6:10:22 AM PDT
Every parent wants to raise the happiest child they can, nobody wants a brat and everyone wants to figure out how to change a child's attitude into gratitude. A new book from a Bay Area sociologist and happiness expert may have the answers you're looking for.

Raising happy children is not just an intuitive, artful skill. There's a science behind it too.

"If we've learned anything in 50 years of research on happiness, it's that our happiness is best predicted by the strength of our social ties, our connections to other people," said Christine Carter, Ph.D., sociologist and author of "Raising Happiness."

Building social relationships is just one of many avenues to achieving a happy life, according to UC Berkeley sociologist and happiness expert Dr. Christine Carter. As a mom herself to two girls, Carter became compelled to share the science side of her work.

"I realized that I was really applying all this great neuroscience and psychology and sociology to my own parenting, and that I had a real passion for translating it into practical tips for parents," said Carter.

"Raising Happiness: 10 simple steps for more joyful kids and happier parents" is a science-based parenting advice book. Tips range from how to change your kids' attitude into gratitude to strategies for motivating kids to do boring but necessary tasks.

"All the tips are based on scientific studies, but they're all written about through the lens of a real family," said Carter.

Carter shares examples of raising her own young children -- and there are lessons to be learned from even simple stuff -- like the challenge of teeth brushing, or setting the dinner table -- which is why she discusses how to form good habits, one small step at a time.

"The Turtle Step was really not setting the entire table, but just having her get the placemats out," said Carter.

Family dinnertime is highlighted as one of the most critical activities for raising happy children. Carter explains that studies show kids who routinely eat dinner with their families get better grades, are more emotionally stable, and less likely to become obese. The dinner table is also an ideal place for teaching social skills -- it's a launch pad for learning many manners -- like listening to others and saying please and thank you.

"Those things have a very high likelihood of, if you teach them and you practice them with your children, of making you happy and making your children happy too," said Carter.


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